From Mui Né in Vietnam we bus-fly-bus-boat-tricycle to Boracay in the Philippines. Boracay, a famous name among kite fanatics. We find out it is a bit of a schizophrenic place: the west side is white beach, 4km of white sands and crystal blue water, one of the reasons Boracay appeared on the tourist radar. The east-side is the kite beach, Bulabog, with this time of year consistent strong winds, shallow water in the bay until the edge of the reef and a pretty laid back atmosphere. Not in white beach, which is literally swamped with Asiatic tourists, mainly from Korea, China, Taiwan and a few Japanese. The crazy Koreans are easily recognizable: they travel in packs (and do it from the back, how else can you get to the b….), the girls dye their hair brown, the guys have hip hairdo's, and they are mainly concerned about capturing the moment, or more specifically themselves. Walking around on white beach you have to constantly duck the selfie sticks. I saw a local, fed up with the every day situation, wearing a t-shirt "Fuck your selfie". Tourism has exploded and it feels like Bali Kuta beach, only Boracay Island is ten times smaller.
The wind is a bit moderate and also the long term wind prediction does not show improvement, so I invest in a 14m, a wonderfully stable kite. It doesn’t take long before I start practicing back loops, scary to try for the first time but due to good preparation watching videos and visualization the first attempt succeeds and is actually a school example. But then the mind takes over and half of the following attempts fail. After two weeks of kiting and a few crashes the overworked core results in a stinging pain around the left rib cage. Just to make sure, we visit the clinic visit and a photo shows at least nothing is broken, which leaves the conclusion of a muscle spasm. Doctors’ advice: two weeks no kiting. A new plan needs to be made and in fact we both are a bit tired of busy Boracay. But a travel plan is not easy to make with 7000 islands, limited airline services and a not so impeccable track record of ferry services. But we find a relatively easy way to go to Palawan, the big island in the south-east, and supposedly beautiful.
We take the short ferry back from Boracay to Caticlan and bus to Iloilo (pronounce as two words, ilo – ilo) just in time for a festival in town with a firework competition between firework suppliers. We missed the one in Amsterdam this New Year’s eve, but this definitely makes up for it. The next day we have a short flight to the capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa. Our expectations are not too high of this town based on the descriptions, which helps to have a couple of pleasant surprises. First of all the people are friendly and interested and there are not many tourists, which is a nice break from crazy Boracay. We find a great lunch place, Kalui, a shoeless restaurant in almost Balinese wooden style, and a fantastic seafood based menu. Our plan was to visit the nearby '7th world wonder’ underground river, but en-route the trip is cancelled due to bad weather, so instead we rent a motorbike and visit the nearby kite spots, Emerald beach and Blue Palawan, the last having a wakestyle park and recently venue of a Philippines competition. There is no wind, so we just hang at the pool and enjoy the sea views.
This is how we meet Janet & Todd, a Philippino-American couple, adventurers by nature. He has sailed 10 years solo around the world, she is an athlete, and amongst others they climbed the Everest together. A perfect track record to take us on an expedition I would say. When we leave El Nido we are in for a rough start, the wind is strong and crossing the fairly open channel there are big waves, we have to move to the top of the boat to stay dry. This is the maiden voyage of this new boat, and it shows, during the afternoon we get engine problems. We have to camp at the nearby Island with only a fisherman’s couple living there and no facilities. The tent is of poor quality and not very capable of handling the strong wind, we have to weigh it down with stones and during the night it regularly collapses on our faces. Also the mattress got wet in the canoe trip to the shore, so we sleep on the sand. But all is forgotten in the morning when the sun rises over this beautiful landscape and a pancake breakfast is served! In the afternoon we switch boat, the home base of Janet & Todd and their 2,5 year old daughter Amihan. www.belarminoventures.com , highly recommended!
We are now in Coron city, relaxing and planning the remaining time in the Philippines. On the 7th we fly to Manilla, which is going to be a challenge on a small ATR airplane and only 20kg per passenger allowance. Our kite bag with four kites is already 30kg, so we are going to be wearing a lot of clothes and a lot of hand luggage and keep our fingers crossed. From Manilla we plan to move to the north, to Pagudpud, one of the windiest places in the Philippines.